Arts & Events » Arts and Culture

Frog Giggin'

The opening of Toad's Place was a little drier than we wanted, but that couldn't hide the fact that the venue is very, very promising.

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Finally, a state-of-the-art live music club in Richmond.

The words just roll so nicely off the tongue, don't they?

The new Toad's Place Richmond began its tenure June 21 with an impressive, 600-person-strong show featuring the swinging, Eastern European-influenced jazz/rock of The Squirrel Nut Zippers and the pleasantly full-sounding indie rock of The Old Ceremony from Chapel Hill.

An appreciative crowd on the bottom floor was slightly low-key because there was no alcohol being served (the club has yet to secure its ABC license; it's expected to happen within several weeks). The occupancy permit only came through at 4 p.m. the day of the show -- so there were still plenty of employees sweating last-minute details.

The club, located in the old Lady Byrd Hat building, will eventually be able to hold around 1,500 people when construction on the upstairs floor is finished in the next few weeks. That area was off-limits to the public, but having checked it out, I can safely say people will be impressed. Having experienced a concert in the club -- which is almost ready for prime time -- it's obvious that Richmond finally has a venue on technological par with the famed 9:30 in D.C. or any of The House of Blues venues.

There is a large wooden floor upstairs overlooking the stage, as well as another full bar and several suites of VIP rooms above it that will feature plasma TVs and closed-circuit sound. Did I mention the overall sound? It was flat-out great throughout the building -- especially upstairs, where hanging "line array" PA speakers filled the curvy walled space with a blast of full, tight sound.

The club also has more lighting than most other venues in Richmond, with 10 moving lights stationed around the bay that frames the main floor and 72 lights positioned on bars. Bands should have no problem if they want to leave their own gear at home. A large blank video screen is stationed above the stage, where crowds on each floor will soon be treated to a high quality, four-channel Sony camera mix.

General Manager of Toad's Place Richmond, Jeff Sadler, had a lot on his mind last night, having recently witnessed his first child born during the busiest of weeks.

"I'm really excited," he said. "The goal is to bring in a little of everything, so that everybody will want to come here at least one night."

The club, which will be opening an adjoining indoor restaurant sometime in August (it's hoped), will also be booked for parties and other events on nights when no live music is scheduled. S



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